I always want an executive to…
- look comfortable, professional¹, and approachable.
- speak to me with knowledge, insight, and respect², prepared to change course based on new info.
- defend an employee publicly and refuse to embarrass an employee privately.
- be measured in any response.
- step up to owning responsibility.
- acting like they are superior to me or my peers.
- badmouthing the company or a client – justified criticism is a-okay though.
- clueless about what I do for the company (even if the company is big, a few seconds of conversation should yield a sense of familiarity or at least comprehension).
- exposing me for a failure of leadership that comes from above me.
- lying, no exceptions³.
¹ I've got long hair and don't own a suit. I drive a moderately beat up sedan. Some of that will necessarily change to be taken seriously by clients. What about by members of my own company? I've long been considering moving to more formal attire. My personal taste when it comes to formal dress decidedly favors a fusion of Western Europe / South Asia and Western Europe /East Asia. I can wear that and look good, but I also look markedly different from everyone else in the room… in any room, really. When I drive my car into the ground (or perhaps before), I'm not going to buy a by-the-numbers luxury car. I'd vastly prefer a green vehicle, and if I must have a luxury car then I prefer a well-maintained older model BMW - or something in that vein.
² It mystifies me that anyone with a high-level title would be anything other than respectful. Respect starts with getting what you give, and someone who has earned high position can readily afford initial extension of respect. Show me an exec that thinks they warrant obeisance from the gravitas of their title and I'll show you someone who has forgotten that the active life's blood work of the company is done by other people.
³ NO EXCEPTIONS. If an exec finds that they have misstated, I expect them to correct as soon as is reasonably possible. If an exec places an employee in a position to present a falsehood, I expect that exec to intervene at the earliest possible time to correct and hold the employee as blameless as can reasonably be justified (e.g. an employee that knowingly lies on behalf of an ignorant leader is not off the hook).